Pirates of The Jewel Archipelago

Part I - Shipwreck!
The Story Begins

The merchant vessel Antonia, carrying a cargo of silks, sugar, and jade from Khitai and her escort, the Imperial Navy ship Infigo get caught in an unnatural storm. On the decks, the undine bard, Niara, notices strange currents of magic in the clouds above. The storm is too fierce for even the veteran sailors to steer their ships, and many are tossed overboard by the waves. Niara attempts to save some of those who have fallen overboard, diving in to help them. From the water, she notices that the ships are travelling much too quickly to be powered by wind alone. Fortunatley, her elemental affinity to water makes her a powerful swimmer, and she is able to catch up to the boats and gets back onboard.
The storm worsens, and the crews are tossed around by towering waves, losing sight of the other ship. The last thing they remember is a terrible shuddering and the sound of a thunderous crack.
They awaken on the beach, slowly, and take stock. The only survivors of the Antonia are Rothlek, a sailor with a suspicious past and an arcane gift, Jack Johns, a swaggering mercenary with a keen blade and an expert eye for marksmanship with his pistol, Bingo Taverncrasher, a ostentatious halfling with a flair for dramatics and a strong arm for his mace, Niara, the undine bard, whose songs can make the waters themselves dance, Milah, the young catfolk soulknife, who ran away from home to go on adventures, and Ignatious Pyromancer, an aspiring mage from khitai.
They quickly realize they are not alone on the beach, as giant crabs that had been feasting on the drowned sailors quickly set upon them, hoping for fresher meat. The party is able to slay their attackers, who provide them with breakfast. Roast crab-meat!
They decide to head along the beach, to scout the island, and come across a marine from the Infigo, who leads them to the camp of survivors from that ship. They are met by Captain Otto Von Margensburg, a man with a kind but boisterous personality and a gigantic mustache. He tells them that he has a number of marines and sailors, and plenty of food, but his charts and navigation tools are still on the ship.
Niara and Rothlek, both who have the ability to breathe underwater, volunteer to salvage from the imperial ship, managing to acquire the chest of supplies as well as a stock of healing potions. They return the chest, but Niara holds on to the potions, trying not to make the captain suspicious.
The group continues on the circuit of the island, aided by a trio of marines. Along the beach, they notice beyond the overgrown treeline a small hut. Attempting to reach is by hacking through the growth is slow, so Rothlek transforms himself into a shark-hybrid and tries to gnaw his way through the vines, while Milah leaps into the trees and just climbs above the tangle. She inspects the hut from the outside as Jack and Rothlek hack and gnaw their way through. Before they reach the hut, the shark-man begins feeling nauseous and passes out, poisoned by consuming so much of the plant.
Carrying an unconscious Rothlek, they inspect the house, finding it to be of crude construction and greatly overgrown with the strange flowering vines. Milah notices that there is a fine dusting of yellow pollen over everything. Inside they find three skeletons, withered flesh still clinging to the bones. One slumps at a table, a heavy cutlass through his ribs pinning him there. The other two lay on cots along the wall, bright yellow flowery vines growing from inside their burst skulls. The walls of the hut are lined with bottles of rum in all shapes and sizes, and the players find what looks to be a ledger of sales on the table. They surmise that this was either the shipwrecked survivors of a crashed rum ship or a base for rum smugglers.
They leave the hut behind, carrying many bottles of rum each, and continue along the beach. As they go, the island slopes upward, until they are walking along the bottom of a cliff. As they round the corner, they see before them a bay, relatively untouched by the storm, and a ship! Milah cautiously climbs around the cliff face to get to the dock and peers around. She finds the strange yellow pollen coating everything, with footprints all around, heading to the island. She must have made some noise as she was inspecting the docks, because as she swam back, a figure appeared on the deck of the ship and called out, asking if anyone was there.
The party swims over to the boat, finding a Tengu, by the name of Wu Que. He tells them, after promises that the marines aren’t going to arrest him, that the island is the base for a group of rum-runners, as the players suspected, and that the rest of the crew disappeared a couple days ago. The ship is too damaged to sail right now, but the parts they need should be in the compound at the top of the cliff.
Milah climbs the cliff face with a rope and lets the other players climb up. As they climb, Niara suddenly recalls where she has heard a similar story. When she reaches the top of the cliff, she recalls to the others a story she heard about a monster called the Yellow Musk Creeper, a strange and horrible plant that can take over the minds of living things and turn them into zombie-like thralls to spread itself. They look at the overgrown compound with a sense of foreboding, and debate the best course of action. It is decided that they should try to burn the vines, but as the torch is lit, the whole plant begins to writhe ominously and the sounds of movement stir in the darkened compound.
They watch on horror as a once-human figure shambles out of the doorway, his flesh dessicated, his body covered in trailing vines, leading up to his head, which is split apart to reveal a brightly flowering vine.
TO BE CONTINUED!

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Part II - Escape
Their story continues

Without a sound, the plant-infested zombies attacked. The former smugglers swarmed out of the building, but the heroic mercenaries destroyed them, splitting their brittle skulls and destroying the thick bulb of plant matter that had replaced the brain. Pausing to catch their breath, the party drags the corpses to the cliff edge to be burned, and Wu tells the party the layout of the interior of the compound, saying where they will be able to find supplies to repair the Tatterdemalion.
Niara and Rothlek begin to clear away the vines by the entrance they plan to use, Rothlek firing acidic bolts and Niara burning away with a torch. As Niara gets close to one of the sickly yellow flowers it releases a puff of noxious pollen and the undine suddenly goes slack, her compatriots watch in horror as she moves with zombie-like motions to go inside alone. Milah is able to grab hold of the hypnotized bard and pin her down until the effects of the pollen wear off.
Carefully avoiding the flowers, the adventurers head into the ramshackle compound. The place is a wreck, with debris strewn everywhere, the signs of a struggle. Following Wu’s directions, they find the store-room, where the remaining zombies are pushing at the back wall, trying to push it down to get to the outdoors they can see through the cracks in the boards. The party advances stealthily, sneaking towards the unsuspecting undead. Ignatious, Jack, Milah, Wu and Rothlek charge the turned backs of the plant-zombies, while Niara takes up position to use her deadly whip from a distance. Bingo hangs back outside in the hall, watching the party’s rear.
The zombies are quickly cut to pieces, but before the party can celebrate, the door slams shut. Bingo whirls around in surprise only to get a face-full of the yellow pollen. As Ignatious and Rothlek begin desperately hammering down the door, the horrible plant-creature begins inserting tendrils into the immobile halfling’s skull.
Before Bingo can forget how to do math, however, the door shatters and Ignatious’ greatsword cleaves the plant-creature in two.
The party returns to the cliff-side again, nursing wounds and resting after the ordeal. They quickly begin to worry, however, that the Imperial Navy crew could be in danger. With no time to lose the party climbs down the cliff face and runs across the beach.
They arrive in time to swing the tide of a battle already in progress. Zombified marines and sailors battle their former comrades, and two of the plant monsters prowl the beach behind a screen of their zombie minions, infecting the dying sailors.
The heroes charge in, slaughtering the zombies and destroying the plants controlling them. Von Margensburg and the remaining Navy crew agree that getting off the island as soon as possible is the best plan.
Repairing the ship, loading it with as much rum as they can carry, the survivors cast off from the island. They are loathe to leave the cargo of their ships at the bottom of the sea, however, and Niara and Rothlek swim down to retrieve what they can. They return with a good deal of the jade cargo, the sugar and silk having been ruined by the saltwater. With that done, they use the navigation charts on the Tatterdemalion to navigate the treacherous reefs around the island and make it back to the shipping lanes.

But nothing seems to go right for the crew, because it looks as if they will not have enough supplies to get them to the Jewel Archipeligo. After much debate, they decide to put in at Rumbottom Cove, the pirate town that is within easy reach of the smuggler’s island. They make it to the pirate haven and dock, being cautious and discreet as they can. Von Margensburg and the Marines stay hidden aboard the ship while the crew hits the town to trade rum for supplies.
With night falling and the ship stocked and ready, Wu suggests that the party kills time while waiting for the tides to visit the wide selection of brothels in Rumbottom. While some of the party find this unsavory, Wu, Rothlek, and Jack head out into the town again.
They return, one by one, before the tides. Rothlek comes last, lugging a new sea-chest he bought.

The Tatterdemalion slinks out of the Bladed Isles and heads back to the shipping lanes, sailing south, the the Jewel Archipeligo…
TO BE CONTINUED!

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Part III - Salvage
The crew gets their first salvage

Heading along the shipping lanes is slow and uneventful, and the crew begins to forget the horrors of the island. Milah finally is able to accept that she hasn’t been infected by the plant things, and is able to calm down.
One day, the sail into a heavy fog. Niara, remembering the magic currents running through the freak storm, is suspicious, but she can detect no magic in this. Through the fog, they begin to hear to sounds of a battle. As they get closer to the source of the sounds, they see a big transport ship, wide-bellied and tall. From the ship they hear the shrill cries and shouts of goblins. Lots of goblins.
As they float off the side of the boat, which the can see is named The Purple Unicorn, they are ambushed by a rowboat full of goblins. After a short but brutal battle, they question a survivor. He tells them that Nail Grubstomper, the chief of the goblins who had captured the ship, was fighting against a mutiny by Grub Nailbiter, one of the higher-ranking officers. Each goblin had a powerful magic weapon and the support of a spellcaster, and the crew had split off and rallied around these two leaders.
They also find out that the former crew of the ship had become food for the goblins. Repulsed by this, they let Rothlek throw the bound goblin overboard to drown.

They hear the sounds of combat die away on the Purple Unicorn and decide to board it, leaving the marines behind to guard the ship. They find the deck covered in blood and slain goblins. The hatches to the below-decks are barred from the inside, but between the two brawny men and the hulking shark they manage to break on down easily enough.
The interior is equally gory, and there are goblin symbols and words painted in blood on the walls. They find the captains cabin, but all the charts and logs are painted over, shredded, or soaked with blood such as to be unreadable. Advancing down below decks, they come across the goblins under Grub Nailbiter, a rather tall and stocky goblin with a comically oversized greataxe that hums with mystic energy, holding a barricaded door against the forced of Nail. The crew charges in and down battle, quickly slaying Grub and his sorceror. Grub’s remaining mutineers immediantly fling open the door and plea with Nail to save them. With no time to rest the heroes are set upon by a second wave of goblins, led by Nail Grubstomer, wirey and wicked-looking even for a goblin, and wielding a two-handed hammer. He opens the fight by hurling the hammer over-hand at Jack. To everyone’s surprise, the hammer rebounds and returns to Nail’s grip after it has struck. The goblins swarm over the crew, attacking but doing little damage with their poorly-made weapons. Each of the crew scores several kills. Nail’s witch casts a sleep spell on ignatious, after the Archmage uses his magic to double in size, rendering him unable to fight for a moment, but one of the crew awakens him in time to cleave the last of the goblins in two.

The party finally has time to rest, and they decide what to do with the ship as they catch their breath.
It is decided that they should use the Imperial Navy sailors to to crew both ships, sailing them down to the Jewel Archipelago, and claim salvage for the owners of the Purple Unicorn. It is slow work, and hard, as they sail south. Everyone works long hours on smaller rations.
Luckily, they are met by an Imperial Navy ship whose captain is a friend of Von Margensburg. He offers them some of his crew and supplies and they make it the rest of the way to the island of Entella with little trouble.

On the island they find that the Purple Unicorn belongs to Adir of house Terlago, the local envoy of that noble house, and pay him a visit. He seems unusually worried that the Unicorn had been found, but when they tell him that everyone aboard had been slain he relaxes slightly, and offers the crew a hefty recompense. They also go to see the local representative of the Silk Merchant’s Guild, the group that had hired them, and returned the jade shipment. The envoy promised that a sum of money would be sent to them as payment in the morning…
TO BE CONTINUED!

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Part IV - Assassins
A dagger in the dark and an ambush on the sea

The crew decides to rename the Tatterdemalion to the Siren’s Song, and to give her an even coat of paint. They also go to the proper offices on the island to get the ship authenticated and paperwork drawn up to show their ownership, aided by Von Margensburg. The painting takes the rest of the day, and with the ship born anew into something looking quite respectable, they turn in for the night.

Ignatious awakens to see men in dark garb rifling through the crew’s belongings. He gives a shout of warning and punches the intruder nearest to him in the face. In the mad scramble to act, three of the assassins are cut down with their blades still sheathed and one is struck by a spell Niara’s, causing him to burst into uncontrollable laughter. The remaining two assassins strike with poisoned daggers, injuring Wu and Jack.
The battle is over nearly as soon as it’s started, with four of the six dead, one unconscious, and the last surrendering and dropping his blade. Disarming them, Jack recognizes their tattoos and knows that they are assassins in the employ of house Terlago.
Questioning the assassin proves difficult, until Rothlek transforms and threatens to eat the uncooperative assassin. He reveals that they were under orders from Adir, to see if they had any evidence. Evidence of what he will not say. The crew decides to kill the assassins and send their poison back to Adir with a note saying that they know what he is afraid they do and he had best not try anything again.

They begin to set sail immediatly, as the sun rises. As they are working, a well-dressed half-elf with a sinister sort of sleazyness about him walks up their gangplank and asks to speak to them. He says that he is a seller of piracy insurance, and for the low price of 1000 gold every time the ship makes port, he can guarantee that they will not be attacked by pirates. If they don’t, he adds rather nastily, he feels just sure that something bad will happen to them. They ask him about how he can guarantee that and he says the Belit, the Queen of the Coast, is his employer, and she will personally provide secure sailing for anyone who pays her fee. Rothlek and Jack have heard of Belit before, and Von Margensburg fills in the rest of the crew; she is a pirate captain with a well-armed flagship and a small armada at her command. She appeared only recently and has been ruthlessly efficient with her pirating. She has a supernatural ability to have her ship travel great distances in a short time, and is known for attacking three different places, each a week’s travel distant, all on the same day.

Even faced with this, the crew decides to tell the pirate that out of respect for the pirate queen he can leave unharmed but unpaid. He says they will regret this, but leaves none the less.
The crew then sails out before Adir can send more assassins, heading to the larger island of Como for supplies and to drop off Von Margensburg at the Navy Command Center there. He writes them a letter to give to the authorities at Kingsport. It is a recommendation that they receive Letters of Marque, the official license of privateers.

The two-day trip is uneventful, and Como is a bustling market island, with many shops and taverns. The crew unloads it’s Navy friends and begins the process of resupplying and finding new crew. They decide that hiring eight sailors and one navigator is the best course of action.
With the help of Wu and Von Margensburg, they find their crew.
Roza, the female half-orc, rather forcefully insists that she be on their crew, and after quizzing her on her qualifications they can find no reason to refuse. After interviewing for a day, they also hire on Young Thom, Tobias Bridge, Pugcrash Willobottom, Long Jaques, Pardel Rivero and Roche Brower. As they are closing up for the day, a young human woman by the name of Susan also signs up, answering all the interview questions perfectly.

Without a reliable navigator, the crew stays on Como another day. They manage to hire on Redlegs Greaves, an older half-elf with many years of sailing experience, to be their pilot. They almost lose him, however, when Niara mentions that Belit threatened them, but the crew is able to convince him that it probably wasn’t really the notorious pirate but a low-life trying to shake down an inexperienced crew.

Travelling from Como up the coast, the Siren’s Song makes good time toward Kingsport. But on the sixth day of their voyage, the trip is interrupted by a massive trireme appearing by magic from a whirlpool. Redlegs calls out that he recognizes the flag, it’s a ship of Belit’s fleet. As jack shouts that they should have taken the deal, Niara tries to run up a flag of parley. The trireme ignores the parley request and rams the Siren’s Song, it’s iron prow smashing through the hull and badly damaging the ship, Both ships are now locked together, and the crew sees the enemy captain standing on the prow of the ship. It’s a male half-elf, not the Queen of the Coast herself. Niara shouts to him that they don’t have the money, and he replies that he is not interested in that and shoots at her. The bullet only grazes her, but she makes a dramatic show and falls backward into the water, her undine powers healing the shallow wound on contact with the water.
The battle is joined, the crew rushing up the sloped prow of the trireme to battle the pirates. The captain fires reloads his heavy-bore musket as they approach, and a pirate sorcerer steps up to the prow to fire a bolt of acid at Bingo, wounding the halfling a bit. The ship’s first mate calls out inspiring words, helping his fellow pirates to combat the crew.
The battle goes poorly for the pirates, with the enlarged Ignatious carving his way through the pirates with ease. He reaches the bard however, to be met with a spell that makes him believe that the pirate is his closest friend. With the captain and ship’s caster slain, the pirate bard rushes toward the hatches to the below-decks, as the party hears a ferocious bellow.
From the hold appears a hulking, hideous figure, and ogre, swinging a gory cleaver and injuring several of the heroes before he is shot fatally by Jack.

With the pirates on the deck slain, the heroes go cautiously below-decks, to find that the trireme is crewed by slaves. They unchain the poor souls from the oars and discuss what to do.
Exploring the ship, they find in the captains quarters many logs and coded letters that may prove useful. They also discover, to their horror, that there are no food supplies on the ship. The ogre had been using slaves as food for the whole crew.
This also poses a problem for them, as they now have 180 freed slaves and food for only 16. They have a tense discussion and decide that they will return to Como, sharing their food with the slaves at quarter-rations. This gets them back, hungry but not starving.

They are rewarded handsomely for the capture of the trireme, and they decide that some of the money should go to the freed slaves.
Newly rich, the party resupplies and rests, ready to begin their voyage to Kingsport in the morning…
TO BE CONTINUED!

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Part V - Kingsport
Reunions and Dream Monsters

From the slaver ship, the crew finds coded letters between the pirate captain and the mysterious Belit, Queen of the Coast. The letters reference a Stone and a place called Dark Harbor. The party infers that this must be her hideout, and the Stone she refers to in the letters is a teleportation device, explaining how her ships are able to strike around the world so rapidly. The stone itself is also found, and Rothlek studies it’s secrets on the journey to Kingsport.
The Siren’s Song has a pleasant voyage to the Imperial Capital on the Southern Seas, and they dock at the Rivermarket, Niara flirtatiously netting them a discount on docking fees.
Taking their letter of recommendation from Captain Von Margensburg to the Office of the Admiralty, they meet Captain D’Armitz, the officer in charge of Privateers. He is a rugged man, standing stark contrast to the ostentatiousness of the Admiral’s Fortress Mansion. He seems impressed by their letter and their deeds, and has no hesitation drafting letters of marque for the crew.
After getting their official papers of registration, the new privateers hit the Rivermarket, looking for supplies. They spend their prize money from the captured Trireme to purchase enchanted weapons and armor.
As evening creeps in, Jack suggests that the crew have dinner with his family. The Johns family is excited for him to return home, and the crew is treated to a warm and friendly dinner, most of which was purchased by Niara.
With the sun long set and their bellies full, the party heads back to the ship. The crowds on the street have thinned out, but Kingsport never truly sleeps. Suddenly Niara is grabbed by behind, and a gruff voice scolds her, “What are you doing here? He’s always watching, it’s too dangerous! You know this, Coral!” The man spins her around to glare into her face. He is a half-elf, aged well past his prime. When he sees her face he frown and growls, “You’re not her.” Then flees into the crowd.
The party gives chase, pursuing him through the night streets of The Rivermarket and through the gates to Pub Alley. He knocks a fruit stall over, forcing them to jump it or climb over, then plunges through a crowd gathered listening to a street performer. The crew is able to jostle their way through, and Milah catches sight of the elf disappearing down an alleyway. They follow him through the narrow twisted darkness, trusting Milah’s sense of smell to track him more than anything else. They hear a door slam shut ahead, then reach it seconds later, only to find it locked. Milah’s expert skill with a lockpick quickly removes the obstacle, and they see the half-elf disappear into a building in the Reaches.
Niara is shouting at him to wait as they rush after him, desperate for information on her mother. They get to the door, finding it unlocked, but fail to notice the trap set on the door. Niara and Milah barely avoid the bolt of lightning, getting only minor burns, but the rest of the crew gets severely shocked.
Rushing inside, they are caught in a half-dome of ice. Ignatious begins trying to hack his way out, but the ice is thick. Standing on the partially caved-in second floor they see the half-elf, regarding them coldly. “Your disguise is faulty, Urugothol,” he says, “I haven’t seen Captain Biscara in many months, but i can tell that you are not she.”
Niara is able to convince him that she is Coral’s Daughter, and he releases them from the icy prison, and introduces himself as Kublai Tal, once a famed adventurer, now a paranoid recluse. He talks with Niara, telling her that her mother is mixed up in some deep dark secret stuff, and mentions Jormunnger, the world serpent.
He tells the crew that the trouble Coral is in is far too dangerous for them to be of help to her. He does, however, have a smaller problem that they can help him with.
He has been chasing a monster through Kingsport. It is a foul monstrosity from the realm of dreams. It came to the material plane to steal souls and sow madness among the people. He says he has pursued it for days on end, and it is exhausted, but he believes it has laid a trap for him, in a warehouse on the docks. However, if the players were to enter the warehouse, they could defeat the beast. Turn the ambush back on the ambusher, as it were. Kublai Tal says he can lock down the building so that the aberration cannot escape from the trap. He promises to grant the party enchantments as a reward, and to give Niara something that will help her solve the mystery of her mother.
The warehouse is a dilapidated wreck on the furthest dock in the Reaches. Peering through cracks and sooty windows, it appears devoid of life. Moldering boxes and crates are stacked around haphazardly, forming a low labyrinth. Ignatious and Rothlek, calling upon the new magicks that they have learned, burst through the door, enlarging themselves so that they are twice the height of a man. Niara begins her bardic performance, inspiring courage among her allies, and Milah slips stealthily in through another door and slinks up to a balcony that overlooks the crowded warehouse floor.
Kublai Tal puts up the wall of force around the warehouse, and the party feels a thought projected into their mind, that the monster realizes it’s trap has been reversed. The crew moves through the warehouse cautiously, keeping a lookout for the beast.
Ignatious feels an alien presence press against his mind, and a voice whispers to him, telling him that his allies are going to betray him, corrupting his mind against the crew. He attacks, but misses, perhaps subconsciously battling the compulsion. Jack notices something, one of the crates flickering weirdly as Ignatious falls under the spell. He decides to fire at it, and instead of the sound of a bullet shattering wood they hear a wet smack and suddenly, instead of a crate there crouches a hiddious abomination. A fiend of simian proportions, thick torso and long arms, with pallid, hairless, rubbery flesh. In place of a face is has a mass of writhing tentacles. It stands as tall as the magically heightened Ignatious and Rothlek. Jack’s bullet left a wound which begins oozing a thick black ichor.
The crew attacks, charging in the stab and slash and hack. Milah crawls across rafters and drops down behind the things, sinking her psionic blades deep into it’s back, cutting across where she thinks its spine should be, but the wounds show nothing but meat, and the monster seems unperturbed. Jack pours bullets into the beast, alternating reloading and firing each barrel of his new twin-barreled pistol. Rothlek tears at the thing with tooth and claw, and Niara whips at it while singing an enchanting song, empowering her allies. Bingo scores several hits with his newly purchased enchanted rapier, baptizing the new sword in black blood.
The horrible creature soaks up thier attacks, striking with its many tentacles, sapping sanity from Rothlek’s mind and restoring it’s own health. It casts a spell, it’s tentacles writhing hypnotically, that sends Rothlek’s Eidelon shell back to its home plane, leaving the caster devoid of his greatest defense. Ignatious’ mind is still reeling with the alien thoughts of the aberration, he strikes true and fells Rothlek, stepping over the bleeding man to press back the attackers flanking the monstrosity, but his will finally forces the alien presence from his mind.
Badly wounded, the beast makes a final play, extending a tentacle to touch Ignatious. Suddenly the two switch places. The crew advances on the beast again, striking it as it backs up defensively, its tentacles raised. Ignatious, meanwhile, looks on in horror at the beast take his own shape. His crew advance on him and start attacking, and as he tries to call out, his voice makes no sound, and he sees tentacles writhing from his face. In desperation he strikes at the monster, and lands a solid blow, cleaving the thing in two and finally ending it’s attack. With it’s death, the illusion ends, and the crew can see that Ignatious had been glamoured to appear as the beast, and the beast as Ignatious.
Kublai Tal enters the warehouse, then, and magically sets flame to the creature, incinerating the corpse, just to be safe.
TO BE CONTINUED!!!

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